The Bubblehash War

“I knew the 15th Cup, initially dubbed the “Peace” Cup in my promotional campaign, might not turn out so peaceful after all after I received a letter from Holland’s Queen of Hashish regarding a two-page feature in the December issue. Melting under the photographer’s lights, some samples looked like caramel, others like chocolate. The article, “Bubble All the Way” by Kyle Kushman provoked the ire of Mila Jansen, who was not mentioned although the process used to create the hash was based on something she invented.

“What a nasty piece of mistake,” wrote Mila angrily. “I cannot say stop publishing an enthusiastic article about bags that are a copy of my invention, that’s okay. What I would like is maybe an article on how since 1995, my inventions (the Pollinator and Ice-o-lator) have helped win 11 out of 21 Cannabis Cup hash prizes.”

At the time, hash judging was not a strong suit for Americans. Despite its popularity in Europe, hash had remained largely unexplored on this side of the Atlantic. American judges arrived jet-lagged and culture-shocked, and if you threw in a couple hits of Dutch water-hash you threatened to provoke a major meltdown. The antidote was drinking a glass of water while hanging onto the table with pressed fingertips. Nederbubble could be as high as 99.8% resin and despite being frighteningly strong, it was unexpectedly mild to taste. Although introduced by Nevil in 1988, water-hash didn’t appear en masse at the Cup until 1994.

Ten years earlier, Wernard Bruning of Positronic Seed Company, had sent a photo of one of his greenhouses to the Ask Ed column in High Times. Bruning had earlier founded Amsterdam’s first coffeehouse (Dutch code for weed shop) in 1973 (the now-defunct Mellow Yellow). He partnered with original Provo Kees Hoekert to re-create the Lowland Seed Company, founded in 1969 by Hoekert and Jasper Grootveld, which originally sold sprouted seedlings for home growing. In 1985, Bruning founded the nation’s biggest non-profit grow-store, seed/clone distribution center, Positronics. Eventually, he pivoted to medical marijuana and added a weekly newspaper Soft Secrets to his weed empire. Although he sold it in 1994, Soft Secrets became the largest cannabis publication in the world with a circulation over a million and published in seven countries.

Bruning, Holloway, Rosenthal.

Bruning had learned about sinsemilla after a trip to the East Coast and eventually brought over Ed Holloway to help build and run a greenhouse. Rosenthal made contact with Bruning after receiving a picture of the greenhouse. He informed Bruning about a grower named Sam the Skunkman in Santa Cruz. At the time, Bruning was working with an American living in Amsterdam who had the best connection in town for temple balls from Nepal. His name was Michael “Rich” Taylor. Bruning says he paid the airline tickets for both Rosenthal and Sam to visit Amsterdam in order to make suggestions for the operations. Bruning only wanted one of them to be hired as consultant, and the team picked Sam. At the time, none of them knew the mysterious Skunkman had recently been arrested and charged with cannabis cultivation in Santa Cruz, but had bailed out and fled the country, departing with 250,000 seeds. Sam’s partnership with Bruning was short-lived, however, as Bruning grew alarmed by the scope of Sam’s vision. Sam set up Cultivators Choice Seed Company as his replacement for Sacred Seeds.

Wernard’s first greenhouse.

Sam eventually secured a monopoly on production of medical marijuana in Holland under the name HortaPharm B.V., an agreement that required certification from the DEA. Several official DEA plaques were posted in Sam’s high-tech office and grow center created in 1990.

Some wondered how Sam built such an elaborate and professional operation so quickly after having allegedly arrived penniless, speculating he might have been supporting himself through an illegal operation. The real money at the time was smuggling weed into Germany where it reaped twice the price. Right after Bruning ended the partnership, his greenhouses were busted, the first grow busts in Holland’s history, which was convenient for Sam if he was launching his own distribution system.

In 1986, I penned the story that launched a thousand grow ops: The Man Who Would be King of Cannabis. The next year, I created the Cannabis Cup. The event didn’t evolve past a magazine dinner party/cover story for the first five years, but even so, it swiftly established a global standard for cannabis, as well as a center-of-gravity on developments in cannabis and hemp. The Cup also drove a horde of stoner tourists to the Netherlands duringThanksgiving week, when the Dutch celebrate the arrival of Sinterklaas (who rides a white horse), and Zwarte Piet, a boy in blackface dressed in Moorish attire (who carries a birch switch for punishing bad children, and bag of candy for rewarding good ones).

Mila Jansen, Manali, India, 1968.

In 1987, John Gallardin of Rockford, IL, invented the Motorized Master Sifter, and began advertising in Sensimilla Tips, a trade magazine for cannabis cultivators. Growers had recently become aware of the benefits of sifting shake on screens in order to harvest trichomes. Wily growers discovered they could shake resin off frozen buds before selling them, and it didn’t seem to affect the weight nor appearance. In other words: endless free head-stash for any grower.

The main difference between 1986 and 1987 was the sudden appearance of screens mounted on wood frames, not just on all the tables at Cannabis Castle, but in grow ops all across the globe. The higher the micron number on the screen, the wider the gap. A 36-micron screen might produce a precious golden powder, while a 100-micron screen captured more green. The Master Sifter used a steel screen in place of silk or nylon screen because it was designed for sifting very large quantities of shake.

“Don’t discard those valuable leaves before removing the bare essence of your growing efforts,” wrote Gallardin. “The Motorized Master Sifter separates the glands without using your hands. Glands are sifted through a stainless steel filter and collected on a gathering tray. Electronic vibration does the work. Hand crafted mahogany with polyurethane finish for long life. Deluxe model with timer & light: $199.95.”

This survey of Dutch cannabis was created by Sam the Skunkman, who would soon attempt to monopolize the production of medical marijuana in Holland.

In 1989, the DEA launched a sweeping nationwide raid on High Times advertisers. It was an attempt to shut down the indoor grow industry, including the Seed Bank and High Times. But High Times was protected by the First Amendment and Nevil remained safe from extradition in Holland.

In 1990, Nevil tried to slip back into Australia to visit relatives, but was arrested at the behest of the DEA, who demanded his deportation to New Orleans. Nevil was held in jail for 11 months before he was able to secure bail and disappear. Nobody knew where he went, except for a few trusted friends. He simply sold the Seed Bank to Ben Dronkers under an agreement that allowed him to move back into Cannabis Castle to continue running the Seed Bank in secret while making other alliances.

Mila and her machine.

In 1994, Mila Jansen invented a tumbler for dry sifting and named it the Pollinator. It was a modified dryer with heater removed. Robert Clark had recently shifted from smoking dry sift to smoking water-hash as it had a higher purity rate and unpressed powder could be harsh on the throat. Clark coined the phrase “if it doesn’t bubble, it’s not worth the trouble,” and spread the mantra around the Cup while allowing sips of his bubbly hash from his pipe. Interest in water hash at the Cup exploded.

Delph’s patent.

In 1997, Reinhard Delph arrived at the Cup with a recently patented Ice-Cold Extractor, a five-gallon conical stainless steel vessel with paper filter that deployed pressurized air bubbles to separate resin heads. The next year, Delph signed an agreement with Mila, who created a water-hash extraction device using a modified washing machine. Mila sewed four screens into two bags to create the first water-hash bag-system. (In 2000 Delph filed for an improved patent on his water-hash device.)

In June of 1998, Clark released “Hashish,” which included a description of the Aqua-X-Tractor, a PVC water-hash device allegedly invented by “Baba Bob.” No mention of Nevil, Mila nor Delph. Along with the earlier ad placed in High Times by his partner Sadhu Sam, these efforts seemed designed to establish grandfather rights on water-hash extraction. Meanwhile, Fritz Chess of Eden Labs in California had also been experimenting with extraction devices between 1993 and 1996.

Marcus Richardson attended the Cannabis Cup in 1999 from British Columbia, and approached Mila about distributing the Ice-O-Lator in Canada, an offer she rejected. So Richardson modified her system by adding several additional smaller micron-sized bags with a pressing screen to wick moisture from the resin. He began wholesaling his “Bubble Bags,” while changing his name to Bubbleman.

Richardson’s product was as good as his instinct for branding. But his two distributors, Fresh Headies and Crystal Mountain, were quickly taken to court by Delph. Richardson settled out-of-court, agreeing to pay royalties. Over the years, Bubbleman became famous, and Delph faded away and died a forgotten man in 2017. After his death, Delph’s family filed litigation to shore up their water-hash patent.

Nevil eventually partnered with Howard Marks and Scott Blakey to create Mr. Nice Seeds. Blakey was the first insider to post extensively on these matters online using a forum on the Mr. Nice website under the name Shantibaba. He remains one of the few reliable narrators in this drama and his story is best told from his own words:

Scott Blakey.

Howard Marks (Mr Nice) and I (Shantibaba) met during the late 1990’s while I was living and working in Holland. A few years previously (1994), I had set up the Greenhouse Seed Company [for Arjan Roskum]. Coincidentally, at the same time, Howard was released from a lengthy imprisonment in the USA. During the next few years, we became very good friends and with the success of my breeding work and help from Nevil, Howard and I discussed the possibility of working together. We decided to start a seed company. Nevil and I were already working together on various seed projects.

In 1998, when Nevil co-owned the Greenhouse coffeeshop in the Red Light Area, and I co-owned and worked with the Greenhouse Seed Company, we decided to do our best at the High Times Cannabis Cup. Until then, Nevil and I, operating as individuals, had won almost every prize for cannabis breeding. On behalf of Greenhouse, we blitzed the 1998 Cup, winning every prize other than that awarded for clothing. We came first and second in the overall Cup. I did not particularly like the event so decided to retire from it that year.

Coincidentally my relationship with my Dutch partner [Arjan] deteriorated. As a result, I sold my interest in the Greenhouse Seed Company and, as a sole trader, set up Mr Nice Seedbank (MNS), which has always been and remains a Dutch company. Shortly afterward, Nevil also left Greenhouse. MNS never entrusted plants to non-growers, including our ex-Dutch partners. Inevitably, confusion results when different companies use the same names for different sub-species, so MNS renamed them all. Seed companies’ most valuable assets are the original mother and father plants, which take many years to collect and select. MNS uses a collection of both Nevil and Shantibaba’s plants, the most pedigreed cannabis plants ever bred. 

In 1999, Dutch law changed and no longer permitted the production of seeds. Due to the Gedogen law. however, selling seed imported from another country remained legal. We wanted to fulfill our project without breaking any laws. Accordingly, MNS moved its growing operations to Switzerland, where the law permits growing cannabis for seed production.

Nevil remained in Holland and continued to produce seeds and refine breeding techniques. Howard pursued his agenda by writing articles, books, and doing stand-up shows. I established Gene Bank Technology in the Swiss canton of Ticino, producing strains and seeds for other companies, as well as furthering the use of cannabis as a medicine and producing unique flower essential oils for the cosmetic industry.

All went well, with Ticino eventually playing host to the legally permitted establishment of over seventy growing shops and countless farms producing seeds. The Swiss authorities regularly inspected the premises and the activities taking place, tenaciously collecting any taxes due.

Then suddenly, in 2003, without any hint of a warning, a Ticino-based Prosecutor launched Operation Indoor, an avalanche of arrests, closures and headlines. The Ticino authorities seized GBT, shut it down, and imprisoned scores of innocent people. To this day, a state of confusion exists in Switzerland as cantons interpret Swiss law whichever way the local politicians want. I received a two-year term of imprisonment in Ticino. (However, I still have all the mother and father plants.) 

The Six Day War

On June 5, 1967, Israel launched a preemptive strike against the Egyptian Air Force demolishing its entire fleet while parked on the tarmac, insuring air supremacy for the duration of a short war.

The Syrians were the real problem as they were plotting a shut-down of water to the Sea of Galilee, a plot uncovered by a Mossad agent high in Syrian secret services. To save Israel, the heights had to be seized. But seizing the heights insured a war with all Israel’s neighbors, a war Israel might not win (unless Israel eliminated the Egyptian Air Force from the equation). These factors became a matter of highest national importance. The Mossad agent inside the Syrian secret services had been uncovered and hanged. The Egyptians were fomenting a plot of their own, one also penetrated by Mossad. So Israel launched attacks on multiple fronts simultaneously, taking the Arabs by surprise.

An American eavesdropping (spy) ship, the U.S.S. Liberty, was unfortunately parked near the coast of the Sinai that day and without warning or notification was attacked by Israeli fighter-planes and torpedo-boats, who conducted an all-out effort to sink the boat. The 294 crew fought valiantly and heroically for hours and although 34 of the crew perished, the Liberty did not sink. Communication between the Liberty and the Pentagon was heavily jammed until long after the smoke cleared. Since the Liberty was collecting transmissions to-and-from everyone in the area, perhaps something was transmitted that required erasure. Long afterwards, Israel paid over $13 million to survivors and their families, in three payouts involving a decade of litigation.

After the Six-day war, a fund-raising campaign to support Israel’s defenses flourished globally. Israel knew the Arabs would seek retribution someday. Every possible revenue stream was milked, and that included enlisting counterculture Jews dealing red Lebanese hash produced in the Bekka Valley. Some of this involved prominent rabbis in New York City known to have young bohemians in their flock.

Tom Forcade testifies before a Congressional committee on obscenity.

According to video testimony provided by Joe Barton, Tom Forcade became involved with a Mossad agent moving red leb out of Beirut, but the agent sadly ended up committing suicide. Barton was a leader in the biggest hippie commune in downtown Manhattan, a commune with a connection to the Brotherhood of Eternal Love in Laguna Beach, CA, the infamous “hippie mafia” moving the majority of LSD around the world. The network was comprised of peace-loving, blue-class hippies like Barton, and led by the charismatic John Griggs, a former gang leader who believed world peace would manifest if enough people dropped acid. His entire gang joined the mission after one dose and everyone tossed their revolvers into a ravine, never to walk armed again. Barton met Forcade shortly after Tom appeared in New York, and before he started High Times. In fact, he remembers the day Tom got the idea for the magazine.

Timothy Leary and Billy Hitchcock explore their mudras while dosed on LSD.

After Timothy Leary was evicted from the Mellon estate in upstate New York, and lost the support of Mellon heir Billy Hitchcock, he fled to Grigg’s tipi near Laguna Beach, which exposed the secret leader of the hippie mafia to intense scrutiny because Leary had just been declared the most dangerous man in America by President Richard Nixon. Also riding Leary’s coat-tails along with law enforcement was the mysterious Ron Stark, who claimed access to more of the essential LSD precursor than anyone thought existed. It would be used to flood the world with Orange Sunshine.

Griggs was suddenly poisoned by an experimental substance provided by the chemist working with Stark. He died in a hospital in the presence of his wife shortly after arriving at the Emergency Room in the morning after a night of agony.

Ron Stark, Charlie Manson, Mark Chapman. One thing became clear while researching MK/Ultra, which was an extension of secret mind control experiments run inside the Holocaust camps. A novel would be used to manipulate the Frankenspook. Sci-fi material was favored. In the film Manchurian Candidate the trigger was the Queen of Hearts. Entire novels offered a much fatter mind net. It was just one piece of MH/Chaos, the all-out effort to penetrate and subvert freedom movements set off by the SDS. This operation would flood Haight-Ashbury with heroin and speed, and flood the world with Orange Sunshine. At the peak of Chaos sat the lord of counterintelligence, James Jesus Angleton, who ruled CIA-communications to the Vatican, Mossad, MI6, all of whom had numerous multi-generational ops with influencers and agents throughout the world. In this role, Angelton could draw on players from other intelligence agencies. These connections could be greased by releasing sensitive info as a bribe. The Vatican has many societies, of which the Jesuits may be the most powerful. But Opus Dei and the Knights of Malta should not be discounted.

Stark expanded the Brotherhood network into Europe.  But someone dropped a dime causing Stark to be discovered in the Grand Hotel Baglioni in Bologna with his family.

The police search uncovered an American passport in the name of Mr. Abbott issued from the American Embassy in London. There was also an international driving license issued in Paris. Telexes and telegrams flowed between Bologna, London and Washington. The man was identified as the long-lost Ronald Stark….Among Stark’s contacts was Imam Musa Sadr, who possessed control over a section of the Shi-ite branch of the Moslem faith and boasted a personal army of 1,000 men. The area controlled by the Imam was said to include training camps used by the Palestine Liberation Organization. (Condensed from The Brotherhood of Eternal Love by Tendler and May.)

Jailed for weeks, Stark convinced a judge he worked for the CIA by exposing a terrorist assassination plot involving Germany’s Red Brigade. He was released and disappeared like a snow devil in a winter storm.

There was a lawyer who swooped in with Leary named Michael Kennedy and he was running a Communist network called The Weather Underground. Kennedy’s chief agents of chaos were Bernadine Dohrn and Bill Ayers, and they led a life of privilege while underground before coming out of the cold and getting university jobs with tenure and pensions. While their rag-tag collection of  impoverished college drop-outs lived in great privation, Dohrn and Ayers relaxed in a deluxe Marin County houseboat, dining regularly at the most expensive restaurants in the area. The Weather Underground never seriously threatened the combined might of US police and armed forces but that didn’t stop them from declaring war on America. They told clueless teenage recruits it was okay to shoot police on sight. They instantly became the FBI’s most wanted and got massive media exposure far beyond any threat they actually posed. Their pathetic troops could have easily been annihilated by any special forces squad and every cell had been penetrated by FBI informants. Instead of taking down the network, the FBI disappeared the files, wiping the slate clean.

Brian V. MacDonnell, killed by a Weatherman bomb.

After Kennedy died, NORML created a lifetime achievement award in his honor, and strangely enough Dohrn, who had never done anything for legalization, was the first recipient. She had, however, promoted group sex, violence against police, and expressed admiration for Charlie Manson’s crew for having the guts to “stab pigs.” She’d engaged in the most outrageously violent rhetoric, and never expressed any remorse for the bombings or killings or friendly contact with agents of enemy countries.

Dohrn and Kennedy were avowed Communists allegedly working on a World Communist Revolution and they were responsible for bombing a San Francisco police station on February 15, 1970. Their shrapnel pipe bomb caused the death of Officer Brian V. McDonnell two days later. There was enough evidence to indict Kennedy and Dohrn, but somehow they escaped prosecution.

This bizarre award is a stain NORML can never remove until NORML admits Kennedy defrauded them while stealing High Times in order to enrich himself. Despite these crimes, Kennedy always remained protected by NORML founder Keith Stroup, who had gone straight from the University of Illinois to work in Senator Everett Dirkson’s office. Dirkson was the most powerful Republican in Congress at the time. From that post Stroup moved into Nader’s Raiders, recruits fresh out of law school selected from the ranks of children of the super rich. The Raiders got out in front of the counterculture revolution by creating consumer protection litigation that also paid well when they won their cases. Nader ended up on the cover of Time magazine several times, a rise to leftwing influencer so rapid it can only be attributed to some hidden hand of power.

The Yippies were created on December 31, 1967. Paul Krassner provided the name and Abbie Hoffman, Anita Hoffman, Nancy Kurshan, and Jerry Rubin attended the ceremony. Krassner had founded the most influential counterculture publication, The Realist, as a satire magazine in 1958.

Krassner had performed a violin solo at Carnegie Hall at age six. He would later say he had been brainwashed by constant practicing and never had anything close to a normal childhood. Inspired by Lennie Bruce, he launched a career in show business as a comic who carried a violin.

Krassner and von Hilsheimer.

In 1962, Krassner interviewed a doctor who performed illegal abortions. The Realist soon became an abortion referral service. One day a mysterious character showed up at The Realist and soon became a co-conspirator with Krassner. He called himself Rev. George von Hilsheimer. Apparently, before launching his own religion, von Hilsheimer had been posted to military intelligence in Berlin.

Hilsheimer convinced Krassner to fund an experimental school to the tune of around $50 a month, and deployed the magazine to recruit students and staff. His first attempt (Camp Summerlane, Rosman, North Carolina) ended with the entire camp fleeing in terror from gunshots and explosions instigated by the local townspeople, who’d been enraged by rumors of nude swimming in the lake. Or maybe it was the inclusion of one girl who was half-black on the student roster. The town attack took place on July 11, 1963.

There were a few schools through the decades, up and down the East Coast, but in 1973, Hilsheimer was arrested by Volusia County deputy sheriffs and charged with practicing medicine without a license at his Green Valley School for emotionally disturbed children in Orange City, Florida. The charges were dropped after a raid of the property was deemed improper by the state attorney’s office. So Hilsheimer skipped (just like Ayers and Dohrn).

Meanwhile, kids from the school have come forth over the years with tales of hypnosis, forced injections, electroshock, psychic dreaming, sex with adults, rampant drug use and other weirdness.

Krassner and one of his favorite contributors, Robert Anton Wilson, launched fake news in 1967, inspired by Kerry Thornley, who had been stationed at the secret U-2 base in Atsugi, Japan, alongside Oswald.

Kerry Thornley.

You can tell by the photo Thornley was a flower child influenced by the Beats, Merry Pranksters and Maynard G. Krebs, among others. But after his Warren Commission testimony (which “proved” Oswald was a Communist), Thornley attended at a spook-infested summer camp in Colorado popular with the Koch family, co-founders of the conspiracy-mongering John Birch Society. And upon graduation of that program, he moved to California to become chummy with Johnny Roselli (one of JFK’s assassins.) Thornley then moved to Atlanta and commenced a long correspondence with Wilson during a time Wilson was letters editor of Playboy magazine, the first and perhaps only national magazine to interview DA Jim Garrison. Garrison was a rare public official with balls enough to go up against the CIA.

Wilson was heavily influenced by Thornley’s tales of secret societies running the world, a cosmology that bore similarities to the suddenly popular Morning of the Magicians, a text published in France in 1960, but released in America in 1963. One online reviewer sums the book up thusly: “Medieval alchemists producing atomic bombs and atomic fusion; the Nazi movement inspired by memory/dreams of Atlantis; the Earth is hollow and we live on the inside; the Moon, Mars and Jupiter and the stars are made of ice; and three Moons have crashed into Earth, producing great evolutionary jumps and de-evolutionary lapses, like “Gypsies, Negroes and Jews.”

Thornley wrote a similar opus to launch Discordianism, a goof religion. The opus was published in the style of an underground fanzine, a confusing mix of parody rituals, little-known Illuminati facts tossed with horror fantasies plucked out of Edward Plunkett and H.P. Lovecraft, who’d invented terrifying tales of monstrous conspiracies at the beginning of the century. Horror fantasy held a magnetic attraction in the LSD-fueled Sixties, and the higher people got, the harder it became to discern facts from fantasies, especially when so many fantasies revolved around the JFK assassination. It seems possible counterintelligence realized the Kennedy assassination could best be concealed by wrapping it inside stories of magic powers and alien visitations.

Mae Brussell came from a wealthy family, graduated from Stanford and Berkeley, and her father was a prominent rabbi in Los Angeles. She purchased all volumes of the Warren Commission as soon as available and launched a career as a radio host examining holes in the official story. Later, her research appeared in the Realist, and attracted the attention of John Lennon, who donated money to help publish her book. Much of her work involved Operation Paperclip and the MK/Ultra and Nazi connections to Kennedy’s assassination.

Robert Anton Wilson.

In 1977, after publishing Illuminatus!, Robert Anton Wilson was interviewed in Conspiracy Digest about the JFK assassination, the Illuminati, Aleister Crowley, UFOs and other issues. Brussell wrote a scathing response accusing Wilson, John Lilly and Timothy Leary of being CIA stooges leading the youth into a fake drug-addled utopian fantasy involving space travel. “Ask Leary or Wilson anything practical about today’s miseries and they change the subject,” she wrote. Wilson responded by denying he was a CIA dupe, insisting he was “a high official of the agency since July 23, 1973.”

One of the primary precepts of Discordianism was never believe anything about anything, and Wilson never wavered from his roll as a Prankster-deceiver. In hindsight, however, most of the nonsense people believe today about the Illuminati has roots in his fantasy trilogy, and his work shows little evidence of scholarly research into the history of the Illuminati. Wilson believed the-eye-in-the-pyramid was an Illuminati invention and ridiculed the suggestion the society could have been a Jesuit penetration of freemasonry.

Actually that is certainly one of many valid possible explanations, not something to be ridiculed. According to Wilson, the Illuminati were “good guys” fighting against royalty and religion, and not some devious intelligence operation deploying ends-justify-the-means morality. Wilson introduced the idea that the number 23 was an Illuminati concept (it never was) and usually insisted the society had died out shortly after being founded. He believed Oswald shot Kennedy and Garrison’s investigation was a fraud.

Wilson’s biggest contribution to Discordianism was called Operation Mindfuck or OM, and involved disturbing a person’s reality matrix with some mind-blowing conspiracy information and then trailing off into some make-believe maze of confusion. Life as zen koan wherein any sufficiently ambiguous answer works for any question whatsoever. If you ever got really high on psychedelics and had friends fuck with your head, you’ll recognize the sadistic underpinnings of Operation Mindfuck, and how it runs contrary to real investigations into conspiracies.

Within a few years, however, Antony Sutton published a factual book revealing how Yale University’s Order of Skull & Bones deploys remarkably similar rituals as the original Illuminati, and the Boners have successfully penetrated the upper levels of the CIA, investment banks and military industrial complex. Prescott Bush was a Boner and also acted as Hitler’s banker on Wall Street to the point of being chastised for trading with the enemy after the war. The society was created prior to the Civil War by the cousin of the heir of the American opium cartel (Russell & Co.) after visiting Southern Germany, and based off a secret fraternity he’d been inducted into while there. After establishing Bones, he became the biggest financial backer of John Brown, the terrorist who sparked the Civil War’s armed confrontation. No, this is not some Operation Mindfuck going down, just some simple truths that most people have yet to comprehend.

Mae Brussell.

Brussell, in the meantime, was not up on Sutton’s research. Instead she began making outrageous claims, connecting dots that probably didn’t connect, accusing almost every celebrity death of being orchestrated by the CIA for some nefarious purpose, much the same way every school shooting is instantly branded a fake event by today’s Tin Foil Hat Patrol. Brussell claimed there were immense assassination plots to derail youth culture and even claimed Charles Manson was a Manchurian Candidate under hypnotic control. That was one of her wildest theories, and one that may actually have been true, although it would take decades for any solid evidence to emerge.

When Krassner began checking out her evidence of a Manson-law enforcement connection for a potential book on Manson, Krassner claimed it didn’t add up. He suffered a paranoid meltdown at his dentist’s office and departed the plains of conspiracy theory forever.

Karl Koch.

Meanwhile, Karl Koch was the son of a right-wing publisher in Germany, and he began rebelling against his dad as a teen. Karl had an early interest in computers as well as a fascination with the Illuminatus! Trilogy, claiming to have read the book 30 times. Karl may have been Wilson’s biggest fan and the two met briefly at a hacker convention. Karl was especially taken with the magic number 23 and seems to have swallowed Wilson’s imaginative suggestion that George Washington could have been assassinated and replaced by Adam Weishaupt, something based solely on a slight resemblance between the two men and the fact the eye-in-the-triangle appears on US currency (even though Weishaupt never used that symbol). Of course it was all OM and Karl got mindfucked.

Despite operating with only a primitive Commodore 64, Karl successfully penetrated a number of military-industrial websites around the world and sold passwords and other information to the KGB to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars, a connection established by his cocaine dealers. Most of the money he earned from hacking flowed back into the dealers’ hands. Karl descended into a paranoid cocaine-induced psychosis for a while. Meantime the German authorities offered up a hacker’s amnesty in order to crack the subculture and Karl took the offer, but was soon found in a forest, burnt to a crisp. Strangely, his death was ruled a suicide, but a more likely explanation is the drug dealers killed him in retaliation for going state’s evidence.

Karl died on May 23, 1989.

The Peace Cup

When planning an important ceremony, better tweak the vibes as correctly as possible going in; otherwise they’ll get more unraveled as the event progresses. The theme for the Cup was “peace,” but I wondered if peace would prevail after the outbreak of a silent war over water-hash rights.

A mind-boggling 27 coffeeshops and 17 seed companies had entered, so I knew changes had to be made in how strains were judged. How could anyone possibly be expected to judge 27 types of cannabis and 25 types of hash in four days? Also, since judges have to purchase samples from the shops, just buying a gram of each sample would necessitate spending over $600. The solution? A celebrity pre-tasting. The plan was to collect the coffeeshop weed samples, bring them to a private dinner party, and have eight experts narrow the field of 27 strains down to a manageable number.

In the past, relatively small amounts were distributed at 420 ceremonies, banquets and other special events, while the celebrity judges received samples direct from seed merchants at the traditional kickoff dinner. But the new strategy called for a new packaging concept. Our Dutch liaison purchased 27 glass jars, each of which held 60 grams of pot. At its peak, mounted on a tiered pedestal, this became the most glorious display of quality herb I’d ever seen.

Coffeeshop owners saw this pyramid of cannabis power when they came to register their strains, and they were amazed as well. It was fascinating to watch them crack open jars, take whiffs and make cryptic comments in Dutch. Some years are better than others; last year, for example, was… disappointing. But this year’s crop easily exhibited the best quality I’d ever seen! Even Derry from Barney’s Breakfast Bar, last year’s winner, was intimidated. “I thought I had a chance,” he said. “Now I wonder.” Derry was especially rocked by Tweede Kamer’s entry, New York City Diesel, grown by Soma.

After the coffeeshop owners departed, and the strains were photographed and entered into the Temple Dragon logs, I removed all names from the 27 jars, replacing them with letters. I had one jar left over after “Z,” which happened to be New York City Diesel. It got an umlaut “Ë.

Needless to say, the Cup video crew somehow found time in their hectic schedule to sample some strains. New York City Diesel had an overpowering ruby red grapefruit aroma unlike anything else. This jar became the most poached item on the table. There were several Nederbubble hashes that looked spectacular: Daisy Cutter from Bushdoctor, Blueberry Ice from the Noon, and Scooby Snaxx from Katsu. But most spectacular was the Jelly Hash from De Dampkring, concocted out of two of Soma’s favorite organic strains. Deep chocolate in color, it snapped apart when stretched, and light showed through when a slab was held to a window. It was the most super-pure hash I’d ever seen. Was this Soma’s breakout year? Previously, he’d only won a few minor awards. By the end of the first day, the video crew already had a mantra: “It’s all about the Jelly!”

This would be a good place to interject that Nederbubble was not universally admired as the ultimate cannabis experience. Some compared it to whiskey versus wine; “I can’t be smoking water hash,” said one breeder. “I’d never get anything done. It’s too strong.” “I like the taste of imported hash better,” said a coffeeshop owner. In the past, we’d often separated Nederhash and imported hash into two categories; this year they were lumped together, uncomfortable bedfellows, as we would soon discover.

The following day, we photographed and videotaped the seed strains. These were divided into two categories: indica and sativa-dominant. Judging of these strains was reserved for celebrity judges.

I was especially impressed by Sage from THSeeds. Run by two American refugees, THSeeds has been vying for an award since the 9th Cup, always bringing in a remarkable plant but never scoring a trophy. Would this be a winning year for them? The competition in the sativa category was intense, with a large number of Hazes, the most difficult and time-consuming strain to grow. The tour operator suddenly began having hot flashes over the appearance of so much weed in one place. At the eleventh hour, he was struck by a premonition the banquet was going to get busted. I chalked it up to paranoia from excessive Nederbubble testing. But clearly, I was the one on Nederbubble, as every jar contained twice the 30-gram legal limit for personal-use cannabis possession in Holland. Even coffeeshops are only allowed to have 500 grams on hand at any time. Break the 500-gram rule and the police will yank your license. Forget about personal possession—we were carrying over three times the legal limit for a coffeeshop! No wonder Mike was worried.

“Get rid of two-thirds of the weed,” he cautioned. “There’s a new government in town, and the narc squads have been doing hit-and-runs on coffeeshops. There’s a clampdown going on.”

“Are you crazy?” I said. “The celebrity judges need as much as possible for the pre-test. We’ve never had any problems with the cops in Amsterdam.” Well, not exactly. At the 7th Cup, we were booked into the exclusive Okura Hotel. We’d heard Cheech and Chong had thrown a film wrap party there in the ’70s, and assumed the hotel was cool with pot. But management called the police about “unauthorized pot-smoking” stinking up the hotel. I was asked to distribute a letter requesting that judges confine their toking to the Pax Party House across the street. Privately, I told everyone to keep a towel under the door, open a window, and keep it cool, the usual tricks mastered in college dorms across America. The head of the local precinct ended up visiting the expo at the Pax, and must have picked up on our burgeoning effort to spiritualize cannabis use. I got the impression he approved of us—or at least liked us—because he ended up cooling out the Okura staff, who wanted us ejected from the premises ASAP. It had remained my sole confrontation with the authorities while throwing the town’s biggest annual pot party for the previous 14 years.

Meanwhile, my hotel room was transformed into a video-editing studio, and every spare second was spent trying to edit the video presentation for the opening ceremonies. We’d missed videotaping one or two hash varieties that had arrived late. They’d been tossed into a bag with the already-videotaped hash, so I laid all the hash on the floor in alphabetical order, and tried to match the video clips to the samples to figure out which ones were missing. Rather than pack up the hash and hide it, I left the samples on the floor and put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door before we hustled off to the pre-test dinner.

I wasn’t a big pot-smoker when I came to High Times. Not that I would ever turn down a free hit, but I never went out of my way to acquire marijuana, and it never became a major part of my life—not until I started working at High Times.

In 1969, when I was in high school, we thought of ourselves as members of “the movement.” We marched against the war in Vietnam, smoked marijuana, rejected establishment religions, and experimented with new ideas in spirituality. Many of us thought our movement was destined to take over the world. But where did this movement come from? Initially, I assumed it originated with European bohemian culture, but the more I investigated the history of the modern counterculture, the more convinced I became Europe was not the source.

Peace culture is probably as old as time, but our counterculture version began forming in New Orleans, which was established as a French colony by John Law in 1717. The colony was supposed to generate profits for rich investors in France, but obviously didn’t produce quickly enough. Three years later, Law was run out of France, and immigrants who had joined his get-rich-quick scheme survived only through the help of the local Choctaw Indians.

Very quickly, a focal point for slaves, Indians, and nonconformists appeared in the city. Originally named Place des Negres, it was soon renamed Congo Square. It was the only place in North America where blacks, whites, and Native Americans could congregate and hold ceremonies—a cultural autonomous zone. Mainstream European culture had long been dominated by fundamentalist thinking, a mindset that creates crusades, inquisitions, and blind obedience to male authority figures. But Congo Square allowed for natural ceremonies to emerge. When a cultural autonomous zone is created, peace culture spontaneously erupts. Native American activist and poet John Trudell calls this “all tribes culture”; I call it “the counterculture.” The Hopis call the saviors of the earth, “Rainbow Warriors.”

Although African tribal culture played the dominant role at Congo Square, Native American culture provided a huge element as well, still in evidence at Mardi Gras today. Congo Square spawned jazz, which spawned rock’n’roll. The culture traveled up the Mississippi to Chicago, where white guys like Mezz Mezzrow got involved. Mezz was heavily persecuted because he married a black woman and created the first mixed-race jazz band. His book Really the Blues is a masterpiece, one of the most under appreciated works of American literature. Once the culture landed in New York, it inspired the rise of the beatniks. It jumped over to San Francisco and help create the hippies.

Wherever you find this culture, you will find improvisational ceremonies, marijuana (or some similar mind-expanding sacrament), and an absence of bigotry. The counterculture fosters spontaneity and improvisation—not dogmas. That’s why counterculture people look and talk different. We are free to customize our culture on the spot, because our Bible is written in our hearts. When Louis Armstrong shaped and defined the solo, he was grooving in that ceremonial space that invites spontaneous creation. Just like when Grandmaster Theodore invented scratching, or when Willie Will of the Rockwell Crew invented the head-spin. They were channeling improvisational energy. Corporate mainstream culture does not create such astonishing cultural innovation.

The more I studied the counterculture, the more I realized our goal was not to create a religion, write a book, establish dogmatic rules of behavior, or create elaborate chains of command under centralized control. The goal was to create temporary autonomous zones where improvisational ritual could take place. All we had to do was hold the ceremony and allow the vibration to emerge.

Most people know 420 started in Marin County, California with the Waldos. But the Cannabis Cup was the first international event to embrace the 420 concept wholeheartedly, and played a major role in spreading 420 ceremonies around the world. It seemed like peak moments of improvisational ritual began emerging at every Cup, especially at the 420 moments, although you never really knew when or where the vibes might suddenly jump off. Some people had full-blown spiritual epiphanies at the event.

It wasn’t until the 8th Cup that I started trying to educate the media about the rituals that were spontaneously emerging at my ceremonies. All the press ever wanted to know was , “How can you judge so many strains in four days?” Morley Safer and a 60 Minutes crew came. At the press conference, we unveiled a portrait of Cannabia by Alex Grey, and Stephen Gaskin spoke about his experiences in jail and the refusal of the Supreme Court to hear his religious-rights argument. I explained how soma, the central sacrament of the Rig Veda, was actually cannabis. Safer didn’t attend our little show, but the 60 Minutes crew filmed it. The next day I learned my scheduled one-on-one interview with Safer had been canceled. Needless to say, no mention of counterculture spirituality appeared when the segment aired. I now realize my interview with Safer had been cancelled by Michael Kennedy, who was close friends with Shana Alexander as both spent their summers in the Boner enclave in Wainscott, NY.

One of my favorite characters appeared at the 8th Cup (also called “The Rainbow Cup,” because Rainbow Gathering veteran Garrick Beck directed the ceremonies). Despite the freezing temperatures, a character arrived dressed like a sadhu from the Himalayas, barefoot and robed. But every time some significant improvisational moment occurred, I noticed this mysterious sadhu was right there in the thick of it. I never saw anyone get so connected with the vibe so fast, before or since.

In an attempt to force the press to deal with counterculture spirituality, I established the Counterculture Hall of Fame at the 10th Cup. By honoring spiritual leaders of the culture, I also hoped to define the culture, as well as channel energy on a righteous vibe, not high-holy or bliss-ninny vibe, but truly righteous. The first inductee was Bob Marley, and his widow, Rita, made an unexpected surprise appearance. We’d already created the Cannabis Cup Band to provide a musical backdrop for the ceremonies. Rita was so impressed with the band that when she heard them at soundcheck, she gave me a look of amazement and asked, “Who ARE these guys?” She’d never seen so many white guys cranking reggae. The band had a couple ringers from Jamaica, including a close friend of Bob’s, Ras Menelik,” who’d been Marley’s official Rastarfarian priest.

Rita closed the awards show by singing “One Draw” with the band, and she invited the winners to come up and dance on stage during the song. It was an amazing moment, and ever since, the winners were invited on stage and danced at the end. That’s how our ceremony grew. We waited for peak improvisational moments to emerge, and when they did, they got incorporated into the ceremonies.

After inducting Louis Armstrong, Mezz Mezzrow, Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady, Allen Ginsberg, and William Burroughs into the totally sexist men’s counterculture Hall of Fame, we finally got around to inducting a woman, Ina May Gaskin, at the Goddess Cup , where the bliss factor hit a peak. The bonding and heavy support vibrations left many helpless and teary-eyed. Patti Smith provided an inspirational performance many felt was the highlight of the event. Later, I was crushed to discover French activist Michka felt cheated because a video spoof of Survivor called “Cannabis Castaways” had upstaged the goddess vibration at the kickoff dinner. Instead of presenting a documentary celebrating the Goddess, I screened a campy MTV-style reality show. I hope we made up for it with our Ina May Gaskin induction later in the week. Ina May created the modern midwife movement, and her popular classic Spiritual Midwifery remains a most enlightening birth book.

When Krassner, founder of the counterculture press, was inducted the following year, I dropped the network-TV concept and concentrated on making a serious documentary detailing Krassner’s contributions to the counterculture. It was a breakout year for the Cup’s video productions, which were becoming more and more important to setting the vibes for the event. But I wouldn’t uncover Krassner’s bizarre intel connection for decades.

For the 15th Cup, I wanted to channel Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. I tried hard to get Joan to attend and made tons of overtures to Dylan (although we were never actually sure if he got any). Later on, after reading Dylan’s brilliant memoirs (Chronicles, Vol.1), I’d learn about Dylan’s rage against being turned into any sort of counterculture spokesperson.

Joan’s cousin, Peter Baez, a California medical-marijuana activist, did attend, however. Larry Sloman, who had dogged Dylan and Baez during the historic Rolling Thunder tour in 1975, agreed to give a seminar. I picked up the new edition of Sloman’s account of the tour, On the Road with Bob Dylan, and was mesmerized to find a peak ritual moment happened during a sunrise ceremony presided over by a Native American named Chief Rolling Thunder. It was clear from the book Dylan had an understanding of counterculture spirituality, and had even painted his face like a Native American warrior during the tour. He also wrote a song about pot called “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35.” If you multiply those numbers together, you get 420. How cosmic is that? I intended to play the song every night at the Melkweg, just to see if anything major would jump off afterwards.


After the pre-test, we started packing for the trip back to the editing studio (my hotel room). It was very late, and I wondered where we were going to find a cab. One of the Amnesia crew had a vehicle parked outside: essentially a three-wheeled motorcycle with a flat-bed pickup on the back. He insisted on taking us home—“Ride like a real Amsterdammer!” After we loaded the equipment and weed, there was only room for three of us. I heard some comments like “not exactly street-legal.” Wouldn’t that be funny, I thought, if we got stopped and they searched our bags? We still had over a thousand grams of weed, earmarked for the display case, the kickoff dinner, photo shoots, and Pax 420 ceremonies.

It turned into a hair-raising ride, on some bike trails, some trolley tracks, and even some real roads, but we made it back to the hotel without incident. The crew helped carry the bags up to my room on the second floor. When we stepped off the elevator, we were hit by an overpowering aroma of cannabis. “Somebody must be toking up big-time,” I said. But as we got closer to my room, we realized the smell actually emanated from within. Even worse, the “Do Not Disturb” sign had been removed, indicating penetration into our sacred Temple Dragon lair.

It appeared the night staff had changed the sheets on my bed and left a fruit bowl, so I assumed they overlooked the enormously stinky piles of hash on the floor. I turned on my computer and we started viewing tape, comforted by the knowledge that tomorrow all this weed and hash would be transported to the Pax Party House, where the finest samples were going to be placed into a display case for all the judges to see.

Some ten minutes later, I heard a noise at the door and the words, “Amsterdam Police, get on the floor!”

I didn’t even look up, assuming it was one of the crew playing a joke. I was thinking, “That’s not funny.” Then I looked up and saw a policewoman, quickly followed by what appeared to be a SWAT team. I hit the floor, and my hands were cuffed behind my back.

They pulled each of us out of the room separately. I was escorted through the lobby, which was thankfully empty, except for a dozen more police. Who did they think I was, Pablo Escobar? I was placed in the back of a police car and driven across town and put into a cell by myself. Naturally, I just wanted to get a call in to the High Times attorney in New York, but that was not Dutch policy. “No phone calls,” they told me. Someone predicted I would remain in jail for the remainder of the weekend, meaning I was going to miss the Cup kickoff banquet as well as the official opening festivities.”

“The cell was freezing. I napped for a few hours, but woke up cold and couldn’t get back to sleep. In the morning, I was unexpectedly loaded into a van and taken to a different station in what appeared to be the most exclusive part of old-money Amsterdam. My handcuffs were removed, and I found myself in a corner office on a high floor, where I met the top drugs cop, who turned out to be a warm and gentle guy. All my Cup documents, the codes to the pre-test, my video-shoot schedules, copies of High Times, a copy of my book Adventures in the Counterculture, and other Cup-related documents were spread out on his desk. We shook hands; he noted mine was somewhat clammy.

“I had a rough night,” I shrugged.

After examining my papers and discovering who I was, this policeman decided to release me, against the advice of the prosecutor who’d wanted us held all weekend—provided I signed a confession to possessing the three kilos of pot and hash. He explained I would likely have to pay a fine in a few months to clear things up.

It’s not allowed to have this much cannabis in your possession,” he explained. “But I can see you are a nice guy, and your event should go on.”

Several hours later, I found myself outside, breathing fresh air and feeling the awesome beauty of freedom, and was reunited with two crew members, both of whom were completely off the hook, thanks to my signed confession. The police returned all my essential documents. It was almost 4:20, and we’d blown an entire day’s shooting schedule. Worse, we’d just gone from the weed kings of Amsterdam to absolutely weedless! Even our personal stash had been confiscated. The product and glass video shoots we were supposed to have executed this day would be jettisoned like heavy bricks on a long march. It would be a struggle to catch up, since we had multi-camera shoots in twin locations to arrange for the next five days, and presentation videos that had to be edited for each event.

“Don’t tell anyone about this,” I murmured as we rode the trolley back to the Leidseplein. “Knowledge of this could cause widespread discomfort and wreck the vibes. We must act like nothing happened, like we overslept or something.”
We went back to the hotel room, which was emanating fearful vibes, and found the videotapes intact and my computer still functioning. Next to the computer was a huge slab of Jelly Hash—no doubt mistaken for a melted chocolate bar.

Then I noticed 30 Scooby Snaxx laminates. The room started emanating a lot less trauma after hits on Jelly and Scooby! In 15 seconds I went from feeling like I had to check out of the hotel immediately to feeling like staying. There simply wasn’t time to relocate anyway. I had an hour to edit the video presentation for the kickoff dinner, which was supposed to include the results of the pre-test. In my haste, I listed Morning Glory first and New York City Diesel second, because Morning Glory had the most overall votes. Later, Kyle would suggest that Diesel should have been number-one, because it received the most first-place votes.”

“By the time we got to the Pax, the kickoff dinner was starting and it was time to roll video. Of course, Mike Esterson wanted weed, lots of weed, since everyone was pressing him for samples. Reluctantly, I explained in confidence what had happened. When I told Mike where I’d spent the night, his face went white. I had to eat crow too, about how stupid I’d been not taking his advice.

Fortunately, he had the seed-company samples, which had been stashed at another hotel. It was enough to satisfy the celebrities, but not the crew, most of whom were mystified. “Where’s the weed and hash?” It became the crew mantra, because they found so little available during the event. Only four people in the room knew why. I spent the night handing out Scooby Snaxx here and there, trying to stretch the little stash I had.

The three hash judges, Jorge Cervantes, Freedom Fighter of the Year Shawn Heller, and the winner of the 420tours contest, were supposed to get samples at the dinner. Mike got on a cell phone to round up some hash, but the samples didn’t arrive for 24 hours.

Other than that glitch, the Cup went off without any further incident. Mila had her confrontation with Kyle at the Pax. De La Soul, Fishbone, Defari, and many other hip-hop acts performed great sets, and everyone remarked how the crowd was the most polite and well-mannered ever. The peak improvisational moment came when the Cannabis Cup Band took the stage and introduced Article Dan from Trinidad, who made up a song on the spot titled “Your Time, My Time,” and dedicated it to High Times and the Cup. For the rest of the event, one could hear judges singing those lyrics in coffeeshops around the city. “My time, your time, my time high! Who’s really high? I’m really high!” Article Dan’s performance, along with all the other highlights of the Cup’s entire history, was released on the first Cannabis Cup DVD.

The day after the awards show, I went to the traditional 420 ceremony at the winning coffeeshop, which this year was Barney’s. Soma burst into the room like a man on a mission. He’d just purchased $200 worth of the winning Old Church hash. He threw it on the table with disdain. He sat down and loaded a bong with a slab of Jelly. He held another slab in his hand and worked it into a ball as he sang love and praises for his Jelly, which sells for three times more than any other hash in Amsterdam. Then he turned his attention to the Old Church hash. “If Helen Keller and her two blind sisters were the hash judges, they could not….”

Bluebird had given a similar speech after failing to capture a hash prize at the 8th Cup. For many years thereafter, the Bluebird refused to enter the event, even though they clearly had some of the best hash in Amsterdam. By some karmic coincidence, someone mentioned that the Bluebird had just gotten hit by a narc squad. Soma looked stricken. He stopped his rant, pulled out a cell phone and called Harry to make sure he was OK. And he was. Whew. “Hey, I agree with you,” I told Soma. “Americans can’t judge hash. The Jelly was the best hash. It deserved the Cup in my opinion. I’ll tell you what; they gave me a Cup at the awards show. I’ll give my Cup to De Dampkring in recognition of the Jelly.”

Soma whipped out his cell phone and called Paul at De Dampkring, so I could repeat those words to him. However, I neglected to tell them that particular Cup, which was supposed to end up on my fireplace mantle, had been stolen from the backstage area the night of the awards show, so it was probably going to take a while to deliver on the promise.

Later that night, I told Arjan from the Green House what had happened. “You are making a big mistake,” he said. “First of all, that hash from the Old Church was sold to them by the Rokerij [owned by Arjan’s brother-in-law]. It’s called Christmas Butter, and only six kilos a year are produced. It is my personal favorite hash.”

Suddenly, there I was again, smack in the middle of the biggest, longest running competition between two cannabis titans: Arjan of the Green House and Paul of De Dampkring. These two had been vying for the Cannabis Cup for years—although De Dampkring did drop out for three years because they got tired of having to spend so much promotion money to compete. We’d changed some rules to make the contest more fair, and as a result they came back into the fold. The Cup wasn’t the same without Paul and Arjan battling it out. But my mind was already plotting a new ceremony. Medieval silversmith Robin “The Hammer” Ludwig had to forge a Cup on Overlook Mountain, on the winter solstice, near where Bob Dylan bought his first house and lived for many years, an area rich in counterculture vibrations, holy ground for peace culture. I needed to deliver this Cup to De Dampkring , and hope it brought enough positive energy to clear the air, because the 15th Cup… It really was all about the Jelly.

The Man Who Would be King of Cannabis

The house sits near the crest of a dike in a remote section of Holland near the German border. Built around 1880, it’s a grand structure with 15-foot ceilings, elaborately carved moldings and custom stained-glass windows. This is far from your ordinary 19th-century mansion, however, as Nevil, the man who lives here, breeds cannabis and sells the seeds for a living. Instead of wine cellars, this mansion’s basement is filled with indoor grow rooms.

On Thursday, November 6, 1986, Nevil returned from his daily pilgrimage to a nearby post office. It is raining lightly and a cold breeze blows off the Rhine. Although the sun made a brief appearance early in the day, massive, billowing clouds have obliterated it.

As Nevil enters his house, he is assaulted by his watchdog, Elka. He climbs the stairs to his living room, flops on an old couch, and starts opening his mail. “Breeding is a matter of bending nature to your will,” he says while drawing a toke on a joint of Skunk #1. “There’s not a coffeeshop in Holland that can produce better weed than this. But I don’t sell it. I give it away—or I throw it away.”

In a few short years, Nevil has made an incredible transformation from penniless junkie to wealthy entrepreneur. Although he’s an effective and efficient businessman, cannabis is his business, so things are run a bit differently around here. For example, resinous buds of exotic strains are strewn haphazardly about the room, as are large chunks of hash and bags filled with seeds.

Nevil is a displaced Australian of Dutch heritage, and has a quiet, understated sense of humor. He lives in relative seclusion on his estate, breeding marijuana, playing pool, watching videos, waiting patiently for his many cannabis experiments to bear fruit. He has his doubts about the future of the marijuana business in the Netherlands, but these doubts disappear in a whiff of smoke whenever he samples a new, successful hybrid.

“In the beginning I was quite keen for people to come here and visit me, but I found it takes large amounts of my time,” he says. “I have to sit around and smoke with them. Now it has to be someone worthwhile, someone who has a large project in mind. Most American growers are looking for the same thing: strong, overpowering, two-toke indica with huge yields. My number-one seller is Northern Lights.”

After the mail has been sorted and delivered to the in-house accountant, Nevil visits the basement to inspect his prize plants. The doors to four grow rooms are wide open, disclosing the blinding glare of dozens of sodium and halide lights. Powerful exhaust fans circulate the air, and the smell of cannabis is overpowering. Three of the rooms are devoted to young seedlings, while the largest contains 40 flowering females in their spectacular resinous glory.

Nevil placed this classified ad in September 1984 High Times.

It’s no secret that an explosion of indoor marijuana propagation has taken place in America: grow stores are sprouting across the nation and high-wattage grow lights are selling faster than Christmas trees in December. The reason for this sudden interest in indoor growing is no secret either: high-quality marijuana has been nearly impossible to find—unless, of course, one personally knows a grower. But any pot farmer will tell you good equipment does not guarantee a good harvest. The most important element, in fact, is good seeds. And until recently, good seeds have been as rare as a $15 ounce of Colombian Gold.

Thanks to Nevil, however, this sad situation has changed. Every day letters pour into his post office box, containing American dollars wrapped in carbon paper to avoid detection. The money is for seeds. Not ordinary pot seeds, but the best, most potent seeds on the market, seeds that will grow gargantuan buds dripping with resin, seeds that cost between $2 and $5 each.

Nevil’s seed factory is perfectly legal. The Dutch government views Nevil as a legitimate, tax-paying businessman. Seed merchants are held in esteem in Holland, and even though Nevil is something of a small-fry by seed merchant standards, he is a protected national asset nonetheless. In 1985, his company supplied $500,000 worth of seeds to 15,000 American growers. If you smoke high-quality marijuana, chances are good the buds may have been grown with Nevil’s stock.

There is a big difference between growing marijuana and breeding for quality. The best-known example of the long-term effects of breeding are the Cannabis indica plants that arrived in the United States in the ’70s. For hundreds of years indica plants were bred by Afghani farmers for disease resistance, early flowering, large buds and wide leaves. The strain was developed for hash production, but it was also useful for American growers who had difficulty with sativa strains, most of which require longer growing cycles.

Ever since indica arrived in the USA, breeders have been creating hybrids that take advantage of indica’s early flowering and sativa’s bell-like high. The results of these experiments first appeared at secret harvest festivals in California, Oregon and Washington. Then, in the early ’80s, a legendary underground organization called the Sacred Seed Company began distributing these remarkable hybrids. Nevil’s company, The Seed Bank, sells many strains originally developed by the Sacred Seed Company, including the famed Skunk #1, Early Girl and California Orange. More recently, however, some of the most mind-blowing strains have come out of the Pacific Northwest; Northern Lights, University, Big Bud and Hash Plant are adequate proof that Seattle and Portland now hold the breeding crown. Needless to say, Nevil’s Seed Bank obtained cuttings and seeds of all these varieties as well.

Who is Nevil and how did he come to found this amazing company? The man who would be King of Cannabis is the son of Dutch migrants who settled in Perth, Australia in 1954. His father trained telephone technicians, while his mother became a counselor for unwed mothers. They were adventurous, hardworking Catholics, and they raised their six children strictly, sending them to Catholic schools.

“I wasn’t the most malleable child,” admits Nevil. “From an early age I had an aversion to authority. I was the first-born, and I saw myself as a sort of pathbreaker for the rest of the children.”

Despite his rebellious nature, Nevil was intelligent enough to jump two years ahead of his peers, a leap that resulted in his being the smallest in class. “I got beat up a lot,” he admits. “A typical day would start with the teacher calling me up in front of the class to smell my breath. ‘Yep,’ she’d say, ‘You’ve been smoking.’ And I’d get six of the best straight away. And that was just to start the day! Usually a thing like that would put me into a bad mood, so the rest of the day wasn’t much good either. It worked out I got the strap 900 times in one year, the school record.”

Nevil was not your typical juvenile delinquent. At age seven, he began raising parakeets; two years later he joined the Parakeet Society of Western Australia. “My best friend across the road got some parakeets,” he explains, “and I got extremely jealous. After he started breeding I became quite adamant I’d do the same.”

He eventually became friends with one of Australia’s leading parakeet breeders, Bob Graham. “I learned an awful lot from him,” he says. “He was a quadriplegic and he was incredibly intelligent.” Nevil learned Mendel’s laws of breeding and began charting dominant, recessive and intermediate traits for his birds (something he would later do with cannabis plants). “I bought some of Graham’s stock and got immediate results,” he says. “When you breed parakeets, you breed to an ideal. It’s like sculpting with genes.”

When he was 15, Nevil was sent to a state school and forced to repeat his third year of high school. Consequently, he caught up with his classmates in size. “I got into a few fights,” he says with a smile, “just to get back for all the times I’d been beaten up.”

Although discipline at the school was considered harsh, it proved a cakewalk after Catholic school. “The first time I was brought before the headmaster to be punished, he made me hold out my hand and he tapped it twice with a cane,” recalls Nevil. “I thought he was just aiming. I closed my eyes and waited for the real pain, but it never came. I was quite shocked. I thought, ‘Well, now I can do anything I want.’ I ignored the dress code and dressed how I pleased. That didn’t go over well, and I managed to get kicked out within three months.”
He also discovered marijuana.

“I had an American friend who suggested we buy some,” he says. “I remember thinking, ‘Okay, I’m not scared.’ We both pretended we’d done it before, when, in fact, neither of us had. After scoring from someone at school, we went back to a shed outside his house. I volunteered to roll joints, even though I’d never done it before. There were three of us and I rolled three joints, one for each of us,” he laughs. “It seemed logical at the time, still does, actually, even though it was more normal to pass joints. But we didn’t know any better. It was Indonesian weed and we got extremely ripped. I really liked the sense of time distortion—everything happened so slowly.”

There was plenty of high-quality reefer going around Australia, and to insure a steady supply for himself, Nevil made the jump from smoker to dealer in a matter of weeks. Meanwhile, to satisfy his parents, he found a legitimate job.

“As long as I couldn’t be the Pope, my mother wanted me to be a doctor or veterinarian,” he says. “My father didn’t see this as a possibility and just wanted me to get a job. Fortunately, I was offered work as a lab assistant at a local university, which was semi-professional, eh? And I was working, so they were both satisfied.”

Nevil did well at the position. So well, in fact, that he was made acting head of the anatomy lab with responsibility for the operating room, animal room and office. He was given the only set of keys to the drug cabinet and placed in charge of ordering drugs when supplies ran low. For someone interested in sampling illicit chemicals, it seemed like the perfect job.

“Having heard horror stories about cannabis and how bad it was for you, I decided everyone in authority lied about drugs,” says Nevil. “I knew cannabis wasn’t harmful. I concluded the harmful effects of other drugs must be exaggerated as well. I started with barbiturates. I knew many people used them for sleeping tablets. Eventually, I tried morphine. I was quite good at giving injections. There’s something very professional and doctor-like about giving yourself an injection. I had to inject rabbits and mice all the time, and if you can hit a vein in a rabbit’s ear, you can get any human vein. I veined the first time I tried. Morphine made me feel good. I had friends who were already addicted to heroin and they encouraged me. Soon, I had a bag filled with tablets, pills and chemicals of all sorts from the lab.” Unfortunately for Nevil, this situation was not destined to last. Within a few months, he was arrested for drug possession. And it didn’t take long for the police to figure out where the drugs had come from.

The head of the anatomy department suggested Nevil be sent to a treatment center. His parents agreed, and had their son committed to a university psychiatric ward for six weeks. “I wasn’t addicted at the time,” says Nevil. “I used far too large a variety of ingestables to become addicted to any one thing. After I was released I had the option of working part-time at the university—to build up my position again. But I felt the stigma of being a known user. It was a bit unbearable. So I left and started hanging around with people who supplied smack. Even though I started shooting smack, I never sold it. I just sold weed.”

One day Nevil woke up with a terrific backache. His hips and the base of his spine hurt terribly. He went to a doctor and was given some pain pills, which proved useless. The doctor couldn’t find anything wrong. Nevil went home, and the pain still wouldn’t go away.

“Then I realized, ‘Shit, I’m addicted,’ ” he says. “It was quite a substantial shock even though I knew it had to come eventually.” He enrolled in a methadone program, which proved to be an extremely dehumanizing experience. “They made me beg for drugs,” he says. “I didn’t like that. I was scoring weed in Melbourne and shipping it back in huge speakers, telling people I was in a band. I was making what seemed like a huge sum of money—$5,000 a week.”

Unfortunately, Nevil gave a free sample to a girl who was later arrested by the police. The girl identified Nevil as her supplier and a long court case ensued, one that eventually reached the Australian version of the Supreme Court. Throughout the trial, Nevil was enrolled in a methadone program and under psychiatric supervision. “I got the feeling things were coming to a head,” he says. “My drug problem seemed quite insurmountable and the case didn’t look promising. So I flew to Thailand.”

For several weeks Nevil lived in a cheap hotel in Bangkok, shooting heroin until his money ran out. He skipped out on the bill, moved to another hotel and began hawking his valuables to raise money. “I found a taxi driver who would take me to exclusive shops in the city,” he says. “The driver would get a kickback from the store for delivering Europeans to the shop, whether they bought anything or not. After we left, the driver and I would split the kickback.”

However, after they’d visited every shop in Bangkok (and were no longer welcome at any of them), Nevil telephoned his parents and asked for a plane ticket home. Unfortunately, the police had already appeared at his house with a warrant for his arrest. “It didn’t seem prudent to return to Australia,” says Nevil with typical understatement. His parents sent him a ticket to the Netherlands and the address of an uncle living in the countryside.

After Thailand, Nevil’s habit was really out of control. Upon arriving in Holland, he immediately enrolled in a methadone program and discovered he required 24 tablets a day to stay straight. “I handled that for about six months,” he says.

“I was trying to cut down, trying to fit in. I had unemployment benefits, which is enough to survive in Holland. But I was feeling quite lonely.” Six months later, he moved to Tillberg, the center of Holland’s smack scene.

In 1980, Junkie-Union appeared in Holland, a pro-heroin movement protesting police raids and abstinence-oriented therapies.

Obviously, Tillberg was not the sort of environment conducive to kicking heroin. Junkies had taken over the city, converting pubs and hotels into shooting galleries. “My first day in town, I went to a bar called the Lawyer’s Purse,” he says. “Smack was being sold up and down the counter. It was a madhouse. Apparently, the police didn’t—or couldn’t—do anything about it. It went on like that for quite some time. When the police would close one place down, everyone would move to another bar. It was a fairly rough town and I went through a time of hardship. I had no money except welfare. I had a raging habit. I was living in a town known for being tough and criminal. I cost the state large chunks of money as I went through all the available drug rehabilitation programs. After having made numerous failed attempts at stopping, I decided no one could help me. Which is true. No one can help a junkie. He can only help himself. So, I decided to kick heroin on my own. I convinced a doctor to give me ’ludes to sleep and a synthetic opiate, which probably didn’t do anything. I stayed home and suffered for six weeks until I reached the point where I could handle alcohol. Then I started drinking every day, a half-bottle of Scotch in the morning, a half-bottle at night. I used the ’ludes to sleep, so that there was always a certain part of the day blocked out. Eventually, I got sick of hangovers and turned to grass. I decided it was probably the only acceptable drug.”

In 1980, while still trying to kick his habit, Nevil stumbled across a copy of the Marijuana Grower’s Guide by Mel Frank and Ed Rosenthal. “I’d grown some weed in the bush in Australia,” he says. The book helped reawaken Nevil’s interest in genetics. Why not combine his two favorite pursuits, breeding and getting high? Nevil applied for a loan to build an indoor growing chamber for marijuana. Only in Holland could such a request be taken seriously. “The drug program I was enrolled in gave grants to drug addicts to get them started doing something useful,” he explains. “I told them I wanted to grow weed indoors. They weren’t thrilled with the idea, but they gave me the money anyway.” The unit employed eight five-foot fluorescent lights. “There was a vacant lot behind my apartment, and I filled it with weed. I had Nigerian, Colombian and Mexican seeds. The Mexican was the best. I still have the strain. My dwarfs come from it.” Although there wasn’t much demand for homegrown weed in Holland, hash oil was a valuable commodity and could be sold easily. So Nevil became a professional hash-oil maker.

Nevil used petroleum ether, an extremely flamable liquid, for the distillation process. “I was heating it with thermostatically-controlled electric plates,” he says. Unfortunately, Nevil didn’t realize the thermostat on the heater had to be placed in another room because it sparked when turned on. He had a sink with 40 liters of petroleum ether, as well as a can with another 10 liters on the floor. One day he turned on the thermostat and a spark exploded into a flame, which instantly turned the room into a raging fire.

With eyes closed, Nevil ran to the adjoining room and dove out the window, bouncing off a roof and rolling onto a sidewalk. “My first thought after hitting the ground was to save my dope,” he says with a laugh. He ran back inside, grabbed whatever hash oil he could find, and buried it in the backyard. He went back again and collected whatever valuables he could find. “Then I went next door to tell the neighbors,” he says. “They were shocked by my appearance. I didn’t realize my hair was singed, my face was black, my clothes were torn. I was covered with burn blisters.”

Twenty minutes later the police arrived, followed by the fire brigade and an ambulance. At the hospital, the burn specialist told him he was lucky to be in such pain, because it meant the burns weren’t third-degree. He was given a shot of morphine to kill the pain. The next morning, Nevil refused further shots. “I knew I’d turn into a junkie again,” he says.

Despite horror stories from his doctors about being scarred for life, Nevil was released two weeks later with no visible damage. There was one permanent change, however. Nevil decided not to make hash oil anymore.

Since Nevil had been reading High Times, he knew revolutionary new indica strains were appearing in the United States, even though none were available in Holland. If only he could grow weed the Dutch would consider palatable, then he’d be in business and could sell marijuana instead of hash oil. He searched through copies of High Times hoping to find an indica seed supplier. “I looked for hidden meanings in all the ads,” he says. “Of course, it was just fantasy on my part. I knew how difficult it was to get good Nigerian and Indonesian seeds in America, and I wanted to trade with someone.”

Eventually, Nevil realized there was only one way to obtain good seeds, and that was to become a seed merchant himself. He hired a lawyer to investigate the legal implications and discovered it was possible to sell cannabis seeds in the Netherlands. Within a matter of months, he sent his first ad to High Times.

“I expected there were thousands of people just like me, and as soon as they saw the ad, I’d be in business,” recalls Nevil. Business, however, was disappointingly slow for the first few months. Why? Probably because most readers found it hard to believe high-quality seeds could be obtained so easily.

Nevil doesn’t discuss his distribution system, but there is no doubt the seeds were getting through. Most of the money he received went back into improving his seed strains. Nevil went to great expense to obtain seeds, a commitment best illustrated by a secret trip to Mazar-I-Sharif in Afghanistan. According to the Moslem legend, one of Mohammad’s sons died in the city. Consequently, it is a very holy place. It is also known for high-quality hashish. Although hash from the area had been readily available in Holland in the ’70s, the Soviet invasion of the country greatly reduced exports. In 1985, an Afghan refugee told Nevil the fields around Mazar-I-Sharif were being destroyed. “That was all I needed to hear,” says Nevil. “I caught the next plane to Pakistan to save the strain.”

The story of this adventure first appeared in Regardies magazine and was written by former High Times reporter A. Craig Copetas. After being smuggled into a refugee camp near Peshawar while lying on the floor of a car, Nevil made contact with a 30-year-old Muslim fanatic who had a throbbing vein that ran from between his eyes straight up his forehead. The man took a lump of black hash out of his pocket and told Nevil that it had been processed by his uncle, a man known as Mr. Hashish…. Surrounded by four men who were pointing machine guns at him, Nevil set about negotiating with Mr. Hashish, a Mujahedin commander, and finally persuaded him to send a squad of his men 280 miles into Soviet-occupied territory and come back with two kilos of healthy Mazari seeds.

“He thought I was ridiculous because I didn’t want to buy hash or opium,” recalls Nevil. “Nobody had ever come there before to buy seeds, and at first he had no idea what I was talking about. I stood there trying to explain genetics to this tribal hash leader in sign language. When he finally figured out what I wanted, he asked for too much money. I took a zero off his price and gave him ten percent up front. He called me a bandit, but I had the seeds four days later.”

Nevil also went to great lengths to obtain ruderalis seeds, a little-known cannabis strain that grows primarily in Russia. Although some American growers had sold so-called ruderalis strains in the past, Nevil undertook the necessary trip to the Russian-Hungarian border to authenticate the plant.

Ruderalis is not known for spectacular resin content, but it flowers automatically — regardless of photoperiod—which makes it a potentially useful hybrid, especially for outdoor growers. Nevil began crossing ruderalis-indica hybrids with his Mexican dwarfs. The result?

An indoor/outdoor bonsai marijuana tree that matures within two months and never reaches a height over two feet. Such a plant would be difficult to detect from the air and it could take years before the DEA even figured out what it was. (After several years, Nevil abandoned his ruderalis experiments.)

“Since becoming a seed merchant, I’ve directed all my energies and money into finding people with superior strains of cannabis and getting seeds out of them,” says Nevil. “And I can honestly say, I’ve never heard of a strain I wanted that I wasn’t able to get—one way or another. Theoretically, there is someone out there growing better stuff than I am using my seeds. Why? Because tens of thousands of plants are being grown with my stock. Selection from tens of thousands gets phenomenal results, while I can only select from a few hundred. I’m not holding back anything. Any grower in America can experiment with the same stock.”

Epilogue 2023

Intel had been tracking me long before I left for the Netherlands to interview Nevil. The night before I flew back to New York, I was waylaid by Robert Clarke and Sam the Skunkman, who had recently sold seeds to Nevil, including Skunk #1 and Pollyanna. Sam told stories about the harvest festivals in Santa Cruz before CAMP shut down the ceremonies. Skunk #1 was a legendary award winner created by a grower’s collective known as Sacred Seeds. On the plane back, I got the idea of creating the Cannabis Cup, something I began working on as soon as I landed. Nobody was using the word “cannabis” at the time. Even scientists like Dr. Lester Grinspoon preferred the Mexican slang term, marihuana.

Sam began his plot for global domination by partnering with Wernard Bruining, founder of Mellow Yellow, which had started as a squat with a house dealer but had changed names and become a huge operation. Wernard designed the club as a hangout where he and his friends could get stash, and that expanded into a cafe supported by had two huge outdoor greenhouses. Ed Rosenthal wrote about the grows and introduced Sam to Wernard, who quickly became alarmed by the scope of Sam’s plans. Shortly after Wernard ended his partnership with Sam, his two grow ops were both busted, the first cannabis grow ops taken down in Holland’s history.

Cultivators Choice catalogue, 1985.

A few months later, I was back at the Castle collecting samples for the first Cup. Nevil and Ben Dronkers had agreed to participate but Sam kept waffling. He eventually agreed to join the competition days before the event kicked off. The three judges included the photographer (Jeff Vaughan), the new grow writer (Bram Frank), and me.

I dubbed the photographer “Jiffy Schnack” because he couldn’t walk past a street vendor without buying and consuming something. When not snacking, Jiffy could be found holed up in his boatel room, chain-smoking Northern Lights and blasting Metallica on his Walkman headphones.

Jiffy tried chain-smoking Skunk #1, but it gave him a headache. He openly disdained the praise Bram and I bestowed upon the strain for its wonderful flavor. Eventually Jiffy declared his intention to throw the contest to Northern Lights by voting down Skunk #1.

It was the first attempt to rig the Cup, but would not be the last. Sam attached himself to the three of us and eventually got wind of Jiffy’s plot, and began pressuring me to cancel his vote. Since there was no Awards Show nor celebratory dinner (we were on the thinnest of budgets), the Cup would not be publicized until the issue came out in four months. I recall Sam complaining about not being given a real trophy to take home when he arrived to inspect the issue prior to printing. (It wasn’t until the 6th Cup that unique cannabis trophies were created by Robin “The Hammer” Ludwig.)

One moment stuck out while visiting Nevil to pick up his samples for testing. Nevil wanted to inspect the competition, but Sensi Seeds had turned in fresh-picked buds so wet I didn’t see how we could smoke them. Nevil peeled off some buds and blasted them in his microwave. Sitting next to the microwave was a tall jar filled with water with a green deposit on the bottom. Nevil informed me it was his new technique for making hash with water, something possible because the water entering his house was exceedingly cold.

When I returned to the office and began working on the issue for the first Cup, Sam and Rob arrived to deliver a photo of Skunk #1 for the cover. They were giddy with excitement as they wanted to take out a display ad in High Times. In return for $10 cash, they promised to deliver the secret of turning stash into hash (or mold into gold). The ad ran as a trade agreement in exchange for use of a photo of Skunk #1 on the cover. Rob was a comics fan and commissioned Flick to create an illustration. Flick was paid in stash. Rob had initially stayed at my apartment while visiting New York, but had switched to Flick’s smaller abode, possibly because it afforded him a get-high buddy capable of keeping pace with his intake. The more mysterious Sam, however, never made an appearance anywhere in New York outside that one visit to the office.

It took decades before I realized that giddiness may not have been due to the anticipation of making a fortune selling a sheet of paper for $10, but by forging a trail for possible grandfather rights on making water hash. I got a letter from Rob after the ad was published telling me not to run it again as it had served its purpose. The description claimed the final product had the consistency of “chewed bubblegum.”

Sam and Rob often seemed focussed on some distant pot of gold and global domination in cannabis genetics usually seemed part of that vision. I sensed Nevil’s rise in status in the realm of cannabis might be threatening their swagger. Like Tom Forcade, Sam was an outlaw hidden in the shadows, never photographed, and nobody knew his real name, only a string of aliases: Sam the Skunkman, Sam Selezny, Sam Selgnij, Sahdu Sam. Nevil, meanwhile, had played Abbie Hoffman to Sam’s Forcade and seized the glory.

Like many American’s at the time, I paid little attention to hash, being fully satisfied taking a few sips off a flavorful joint, although the Dutch quickly converted me to their art of rolling with filter tips. I served as a judge for the first Cup and instantly knew judging was not my thing. Unlike Jiffy and Flick, I had no love of constant weed and hash smoking and received more satisfaction studying the hidden history of cannabis in religion, an attitude that put me at a social disadvantage among hard-core, hash-smoking afficionados.

I sensed the primary reason for being waylaid by Sam and Rob right after departing Nevil’s was simply so they could prove their head-stash was better than his. Nevil was fine-sifting the finest Haze tops at the time and not all that eager to share his pressed hash with a novice like me. Sam, on the other hand, was doing the same with Skunk #1 and his head-stash was a golden, unpressed power that made a tiny liquid pool in the center when hit with a flame. Nevil’s hash didn’t do that.

Eventually, liquid would not be enough and hash would need to bubble like lava to be considered pure, but that was still a decade away.

Operation Green Merchant

High Times was always a cutthroat environment. When I arrived as a full-timer in 1985, the editorial and art staff had just been sacked right before Christmas. The trustees running the magazine had pulled the annual staff Christmas bonus due to sliding sales. Someone leaked the story to the New York Post and word came down from on high the squealer needed to be exposed and punished. Nobody confessed nobody squealed, so everyone was fired.

The magazine was obviously being busted out and had been in sharp decline for years while the trustees took out millions a year for themselves through cutting budgets, expenses and salaries. There was no editorial budget, as most content was ad trade or given free, especially cultivation information. Aside from cultivation, the content was uninspired with the exception of Dean Latimer’s occasional contributions. But after Larry “Ratso” Sloman resigned, nothing like what Tom had produced or intended appeared until my arrival, mostly just steady promotion of cocaine, heroin and porn. I didn’t have a lot of respect for the people responsible for this transformation, and maybe they sensed it.

Peter Gorman.

Upon arrival I began scouring the files for ignored submissions worth publishing and found several, including one by Peter Gorman, who’d I’d soon hire full-time. He was a natural reporter and once tracked down a leader in Earth First by leaving messages at a sports bar in his general area right before a game involving his college team.

John Holmstrom.

I kicked out the hard drugs and began promoting flowers and fungi. The publisher, however, demanded at least one hard drugs quote remain in every THMQ and the trustees always sided with him and if they didn’t he’d find some other way to torment me in retaliation. I imagine it might have been difficult watching me turn the company around on a dime, since it put his incompetence on display. I began promoting indoor cultivation as the best means for avoiding the black market entirely, and indoor grow articles began appearing in every issue, mostly on closet gardening in small spaces.  The ads for the equipment swiftly followed. John Holmstrom, founder of Punk magazine, was brought in as my executive editor and for a couple of wonderful years we had a blast transforming High Times into a cross between National Lampoon and Covert Action Quarterly.

The parties were legendary, mostly due to the High Times house band, the Soul Assassins. The lead singer, Flick Ford, was my sidekick in those days and had recently designed my groundbreaking book, Art After Midnight. He’d soon become art director of High Times. But it was only after we added an amazing trio of super hotties from the Lower East Side dubbed the Assassinettes that we developed a rabid downtown following. One night Malcolm Forbes pulled up on a Harley to check out our packed show at Continental Divide. That’s how far the buzz had traveled in a few short months. What I didn’t realize, however, was High Times had become the biggest seller at Tower Records on both coasts. There were no celebrations or announcements by the publisher. I knew advertising had skyrocketed, but the business side remained silent about money pouring in from the sudden rise in circulation. Instead, the trustees secretly upped their bonuses and began investing profits into phone sex lines. High Times catered to the sleaziest, bottom-feeding ad base in the industry as the publisher never saw an ad he didn’t like, and the explosion of phone sex advertising convinced him this is where the company needed to invest some money, and the trustees agreed.

Bill Kelly.

One of my goofier ideas was an homage to my favorite deejay Bill Kelly at WFMU who was largely responsible for promoting a garage rock revival in the New York City area. During his show, Kelly would read Ed Anger columns out of the Weekly World News, making fun of Anger’s illogical rightwing rants. I created a column in High Times called “My Amerika by Ed Hassle” supposedly written by a rabid Grateful Dead fan who was lost in tin-foil-hat lunacy. The character was designed as a goof on hippie fascism, something known as “woke culture” today. Hassle was the first anti-woke influencer disguised as a pro-woke influencer. It only took a few months for him to become the most popular columnist in the magazine, surpassing grow guru Ed Rosenthal, although I often wondered how many of his fans were in on the gag and how many swallowed his kool-aid rants. Aside from his monthly column, Hassle soon began appearing in multi-page comicstrips on a wide variety of topics, carving out a sizable presence in the magazine.

The ad that got Hassle whacked.

I’d asked Flick to make Hassle come to life as a cartoon character. I was executive editor at the time and Flick was a freelancer suddenly doing multi-page full-color comics. I suggested he should get some creative rights as he was being paid far below scale, a request that soon provoked Hassle’s removal. Kennedy gave me the bad news in the form of a comedy news release wherein Hassle was victim of a mafia hit. It felt like he was stomping on me and laughing at the same time. Whenever Kennedy made some imperial pronouncement like his killing off of Hassle, it was always non-negotiable. I had no idea at the time he was the real power behind the throne running the company, and not the trustees, two of whom were his puppets. The third (Tom’s mother) would get axed the first time she sided with me on anything. I was sent a letter by Judy instructing me to never to speak nor write her mother ever again. Aside from Tom, the mother was the only honest one in the family.

Around this time, Kennedy was representing the head of the real Italian mafia in the huge Pizza Connection trial. Kennedy was paid a quarter million and his entire defense amounted to putting the capo and a few underlings  on the stand just long enough for them to confirm there was a ban on heroin trafficking within the order. When that defense failed and the client got convicted, Kennedy put out the word it was his last mafia case. He might have been worried about getting a hit on himself.

But after Operation Green Merchant put the corporation in peril, I made a plea to bring back Hassle to save the company by igniting an activist response to DEA harassment on High Times. NORML had initially refused to be associated with the return of the Hash Bash, indicating Kennedy had likely been telling them not to get involved with my antics, but that changed after 10,000 people showed up on the University of Michigan diag.

Kennedy was seldom seen or heard-from, although everyone at the office remained on tippy-toes during his infrequent visits because his temper tantrums were legendary. Right before Hassle was purged, Hassle’s latest comic strip had blown the whistle on the government cover-up of alien spacecraft secretly sucking trichomes off outdoor cannabis plants, something responsible for a national decline in pot potency. Hassle had only managed to uncover this operation after being abducted by UFOs. Although all memories had been wiped by alien doctors, snippets were later recovered through hypnosis. The strip was a parody of the sort of UFO material found in supermarket tabloids, stories I assumed were planted by intelligence agencies to divert the dumbest among us away from any real conspiracies like the JFK assassination or MK/Ultra brainwashing. Even today I believe phony UFO stories are constantly floated by intel to keep people diverted and confused.

High Times catered to the most disreputable ads.

The night before the 15th anniversary party, the publisher was abruptly fired in one of Kennedy’s secretive midnight moves. Had he not been fired, that publisher would have become one of the biggest shareholders since he had purchased Tom’s widow’s shares, allegedly for $50,000. Gabrielle Schang wanted out of the company after Kennedy seized control from her, but that didn’t happen until after she’d fired most of the original staff, cutting down the vested-employee list considerably. Any employees hired after 1990 weren’t going to qualify, so my staff and I were the last ones in. There never was any information about the trust or what we stood to gain when it dissolved. Even after the trust dissolved in 2000, none of the employees were allowed a copy of the articles of incorporation, possibly because one stipulated minority shareholders could never audit the finances.

Much of what Kennedy did was illegal. Lying, cheating and stealing was in his wheelhouse and he ran High Times like an intelligence operation, on a need-to-know basis, while playing people off each other. Many decades later, the reason became clear: Kennedy had stolen the company from the rightful employees and subverted its founder’s mission, which had been to funnel all profit to NORML. But NORML only got some free ads, which cost the company nothing. Millions in profit went straight to Kennedy and Tom’s sister, Judy Baker, except for what the accountants could steal.

Another fact became clear as well. Kennedy had been the secret leader of a terrorist network of avowed Communists who attempted to instigate a violent takeover of the Constitution by planting bombs and distributing weapons and explosives, mostly to blacks either recently returned from Vietnam or released from prison.

The Weather Underground murdered at least three police officers and were involved in the kidnapping of Patti Hearst and subsequent shoot-out between the Symbionese Liberation Army and police. Supplying MK/Ultra psychopaths with automatic weapons had been their prime directive. Like Charlie Manson, who was likely being run by MK/Ultra scientists, the Weather Underground sought to instigate a race war. Even after Timothy Leary outed Kennedy as the leader of the nation’s most-wanted terrorists, Kennedy escaped serious investigation and his terrorist group was lionized afterward by Hollywood while the two primary leaders under Kennedy came out of the cold and waltzed into university gigs with pensions.

On October 26, 1989, agents arrested 119 people while raiding stores in 46 states. Business records and customer lists were carted away by the wheelbarrow. Many of these companies went out-of-business immediately and for the next two years, names and addresses seized would be milked during ongoing raids. Typically, if your address appeared on the list, they’d check your power consumption and if it was deemed excessive, a flyover of your property with an infrared camera would follow.

Operation Green Merchant was well-planned and executed by the DEA and intended to shut down The Seed Bank, High Times, Sinsemilla Tips and most of the indoor grow industry in one fell swoop. The DEA had worked on the plan for over a year infiltrating grow stores with agents posing as medical users who entrapped clueless employees by discussing cannabis as medicine.

By the end of 1991, DEA agents had interrogated hundreds, including scientists at NASA’s horticultural research facilities who had ordered grow equipment, while arresting 1,262 people, dismantling 977 indoor grows, and seizing $17.5 million in assets. Dozens served between 4-to-15-year prison terms, many with mandatory minimums that blocked any sentence reductions.

The first day, two DEA agents showed up at the High Times office to deliver a subpoena on me. I was ordered to hand over all correspondence I’d had with Nevil while making an appearance in New Orleans. I didn’t know it at the time but one of Nevil’s primary remailers in Michigan had turned State’s Evidence and provided names and addresses of all Nevil’s customers he had shipped seeds to.

Ed Hassle to the Rescue

There were serious worries Green Merchant might black swan the company, but it really only killed off most of the advertising. The media for the most part rallied around freedom of the press, and I got invited on national television to expound the virtues of hemp and medical marijuana. At the time, few seemed aware that petrochemical poison was creating immense negative health issues and severely impacting the health of the planet. When I tried to discuss these issues, the commentators thought I was talking about the oil crisis and not an environmental crisis.

I got permission to bring back Hassle, who made a plea for people to join the Freedom Fighters. The idea was to create a wave of protest rallies across the country. Any members who attended a rally (or wrote a letter to an elected representative supporting legalization) got a Freedom Fighter pin. New pins were made annually. All it took to join was a one-time fee of $15.

The Freedom Fighters were asked to participate in improvisational ritual theater by dressing up in Colonial outfits and carrying drums to the rallies. Members were encouraged to seek out news crews covering the rally to discuss what hemp legalization could do for the environment. Instead of stoners smoking weed, rally coverage shifted to people  in tricorn hats talking about how President Washington was a hemp farmer, who once wrote: “Make the most of hemp seed. Sow it everywhere.”

The result caught me by surprise. Thousands of people began sending in $15 and joining the fight for hemp legalization. Suddenly, I had a war chest for activist activities. I produced a documentary on those years, the first of many I’d create at almost no cost to the company. Strangely, the company never attempted to exploit the steady flow of video content, which included feature documentaries, internet TV shows like the Cannabis Castaways (based on just-launched Survivor on CBS), stoner comedy shorts, and multi-camera music videos that were pouring out of my office. I thought I was laying the groundwork for our own cable channel and I was getting meetings with the heads of Comedy Central and Lion’s Gate, so my work was taken seriously by some. The Castaway project became the most popular feature on the website upon launch (even though it was restricted to postage stamp size), but my video was soon quietly junked, after which I was never allowed input to any of the company’s websites ever again.

I decided to kill off Ed Hassle but was having trouble figuring out a way to explain why since he was so popular. I settled on a 1,400 word interview on how the Freedom Fighters had begun as a party, but had morphed into a serious national movement. I’d created numerous independent state chapters and the heads included Jack Herer (who was unknown outside Oregon at the time), Debbie Goldsberry and Rodger Belknap.

Mike Edison wrote a revenge book supposedly a tell-all from inside High Times, but mostly involving Edison’s various bands and firings, highlighted by his addictions to hard drugs and alcohol. The slim chapter on High Times is almost entirely devoted to slagging me off.
Whee! ceremony for world peace.

The Whee! festival had just happened and made a lot of money. Over 15,000 attendees and over 300 vendors. Thanks in part to Edison, the event was killed, although I was able to revive it the following year only because High Times had stiffed the landowner for $5k we owed him and he filed a lawsuit which he agreed to drop only if I came back and did another so he could collect phone numbers on all the vendors. His plan was to continue the festival without High Times or me involved. They massively overpaid the volunteer staff tens of thousands but stiffed the landowner. Why? Because he invited Judy Baker into his house to have a discussion with her without my attendance. I suspected he was a tweaker as a lot of his hangers on certainly were, and I had never been invited into his ramshackle house. Apparently Baker was so disgusted she wanted him punished for having forced her to sit on one of his filthy chairs.

After the Freedom Fighter movement took off and almost everyone thought Ed Hassle was really Ed Rosenthal, it irked me so I decided I would kill off Hassle a second time, even though he represented Flick’s best comic ever. Unwinding the history of the Freedom Fighters was a bit complex and I thought the easiest way would be in the form of an interview. The interview mostly concerned economic and environmental benefits of hemp.
Edison portrayed this interview as an advertisement for myself, implied I put myself on the cover (never did) and went on for pages ridiculing my attempt to create a national peace ceremony that would recognize cannabis as the sacrament of peace culture. He also ridiculed my belief 420 could help legalization and that the code had been created by high school kids in San Rafael. Instead, he claimed I was trying to cast some friends as the originators for my own selfish reasons and nobody knew who really created it.
Mike Edison.

Obviously, Kennedy hit the roof after the interview came out and was still talking about it seven years later, but Kennedy had said nothing to me. It wasn’t until Edison published his revenge book that I realized the interview started Kennedy’s campaign to fire me. Maybe because I threw shade on NORML, who had been blocking rallies and protests because they felt such events were counterproductive. Kennedy didn’t want NORML participating in the Hash Bash initially, and NORML sent a cease and desist to have their name removed from flyers that year. That all changed after the Hash Bash began drawing tens of thousands to Ann Arbor.

Rosenbaum was Angleton’s mouthpiece in the media.

Many years earlier, Ron Rosenbaum had written a 10,000 word interview with Kennedy that positively crawled up his ass and stayed there. Now this was surely an advertisement for Kennedy, who charged $60k to handle cannabis cases, more than twice the going rate, You’d be lucky to see him in court as all cases were handled by his assistant, unless you were super rich, high on the social ladder or a celebrity. In some cases, it was about negotiating a quick plea deal and keeping the retainer.

Shaping and molding public opinion is a multi-generational operation conducted at the highest levels of national security, which secretly manipulates media through strategically placed influencers. For a brief time in the 1960s, an independently-owned counterculture media appeared, and was peppered with intel influencers upon inception. I was 15 when I joined the counterculture revolution and soon created my own newspaper, The Tin Whistle. For this, I was targeted by State Narcotics Agents, who captured my fingerprints and terrorized me with fake charges. Over time, the counterculture media became dominated by intel influencers. Walter Bowart of the East Village Other certainly comes to mind. He thanked MI6 super spook William Stephenson in the forward to his mostly fake expose on MK/Ultra. A lot of journalists who had been investigating CIA links to the JFK assassination suddenly veered into Area 51 and evidence of alien visitations. (Jim Marrs being just one of many.)
Over the decades, I’ve watched the percentage of Americans who believe the CIA assassinated JFK drop precipitously, a result of the media’s disinformation. New Times magazine appeared supposedly as the alternative to the CIA-connected Time-Life complex, but the magazine was created by a former exec. of Time-Life who brought in the son of a Time-Life, Inc. president to edit the magazine, as well as a Yale grad with a pipeline into James Angleton’s office named Rosenbaum to write critical features. Rosenbaum had attached himself to Tom Forcade before High Times was created. He helped cover up Angleton’s role in Mary Meyer’s murder and destruction of her diary. By 1974, the alternative media was almost completely compromised with the notable exception of High Times. But the intel influencers were already positioned in the shadows, ready to take command when the opportunity afforded. Rosenbaum was contributing under his own name and also writing a column on cannabis. In a nod to British intelligence, the columns were credited to “R”.
After Tom’s death Rosenbaum penned a cover story on how pot was “over” and running was the new drug. At the same time, New Times closed down and the staff switched to a magazine called “Runner.”
Slowly, America changed direction from trying to change the world to trying to change themselves. The “Me” generation didn’t emerge spontaneously. It was riding a sled.
Meanwhile, influencers who had been investigating the falsehoods of the Warren Commission switched sides, announcing anything but Oswald alone did it was a deluded conspiracy theory. Intel operative Jerry Rubin traded in his Pancho Villa outfit for Brooks Brothers. Rosenbaum published stories on how Danny Casolaro committed suicide. He also helped cover-up the role of some Yale Boners in JFK’s assassination. Intel’s multi-generational disinfo strategy involves getting their influencers out in front of the pack first so they can better lead the pack off a cliff.
In case you missed what happened down the road: Kennedy squandered millions in a failed attempt to dominate the hemp industry while playing defense against me for decades, refusing to permit me to execute another idea and blocking my content. Meanwhile, I wasn’t allowed to participate in any of his hemp-related schemes, although everything was based on something I’d brought to the company. I’d been trying to raise consciousness, but it became clear all Kennedy wanted was to make more money. When I’d finally had enough and requested a buy-out on my ten percent of the company, he seized my archives and threatened litigation on me. Years later, when the company failed to honor the measly monthly payout, I sued and got my archives and my lawyer’s fees back, along with every cent they still owed me. But it took two years of stonewalling by High Times to get justice..

The Bubblehash Wars

Ed Hassle’s Freedom Fighters started as an attempt at a High Times fan club, but it took off so fast I suddenly had some access to a promotional budget. After I published the interview announcing Hassle was being phased out because the Freedom Fighters had become a become a serious political force, Kennedy began searching for any excuse to fire me. I had also announced my intention to investigate the JFK and MLK assassinations. What many today don’t realize is the hemp movement started as a conspiracy theory in which cannabis had been secretly made illegal everywhere so it wouldn’t compete against plastic and other oil products.
One day a sinister letter arrived addressed to Ed Hassle and postmarked Atlanta, Georgia, containing a threat against President Bush and signed “a freedom fighter.” I knew immediately this was an attempt by someone to set me up. I got hundreds of letters from activists, but none were like this one. The letter was written on heavy stock with a sharpie and seemed the product of a disciplined mind, nothing like the stoner scrawls I got from many activists. The letter also indicated a CC had been sent to NORML. Real activists didn’t CC hand-written correspondence.
In hindsight it’s somewhat obvious Kennedy instigated the letter to destroy the Freedom Fighters. Eventually, I was called into a meeting with the trustees where they demanded I turn the mailing list (the biggest in the movement) over to NORML. Thus ended my access to thousands of volunteers, funds for travel, and the campaign to create pot rallies everywhere quickly ran out of steam, although the established rallies continued to grow without the Freedom Fighters. We had been organizing some of the biggest political events of our time, and although this went ignored by the national media, the plan to get Freedom Fighters wearing tricorns talking about hemp on local TV was successful. After NORML took over, all the street theater ended. After the Secret Service visited the Atlanta focalizer, followed by a break-in to his house a few days later, he resigned, followed by a number of other state leaders. Our last newsletter was Vol. 4/#1, indicating we were in our fourth year when dissolved.
There are two streams of disinfo locked in endless flame wars online, and both slag off Nevil unfairly. I never testified before the Operation Green Merchant grand jury in New Orleans, and neither did Nevil. Nevil never told me Dave Watson dropped a dime on him. What Nevil told me was that Watson was Sam’s real name and he was working with Australian law enforcement to create a genetic database for tracking illegal grow operations for the purpose of enhancing sentencing. Similar to Wernard, Nevil cut off all contact with Watson when he realized the scope of what Watson was doing.
Arjan Roskum was the first to tell me Sam and Watson were the same person.

Later, a Dutch journalist/politician investigated Watson and discovered he held an exclusive government contract to grow cannabis for medical research in Holland. Apparently, Watson also had permission from the DEA. Watson had been busted in Santa Cruz on March 20, 1985, bailed out, and departed for the Netherlands with a suitcase of 250,000 seeds.

A Dutch radio show would continue the research by interviewing a Santa Cruz sheriff who confirmed Watson’s arrest on cannabis charges. I wrote a blog “The Mysterious Mr. Watson” that drew out a lot of these characters, although I had to ban some when flame wars erupted. The original blog comments were lost when High Times threatened a lawsuit regarding my website, although I did retrieve the blog itself through the WayBack Machine. Nevil was well aware the snitch who turned him in was his remailer in Michigan, Ray Anthony Cogo. He provided a link to Cogo’s grand jury testimony.
Ray Cogo.

Cogo responded by claiming Nevil was MI6 and I was CIA and he turned over hundreds of names of seed buyers (even though Nevil instructed him to destroy those records immediately after mailing to protect the customer’s identity) in order to shut down our intel op. Obviously, Cogo bartered those names and addresses as his get-out-jail-free card. Nowhere in his testimony is any mention of MI6 or CIA, and if Cogo’s real motivation was exposing spooks why not go to the press with that story? In fact, Cogo has been offered many times to discuss his testimony with a podcaster and always refuses.

Very little of what you read about this online is unbiased. The pro-Watson sock-puppets and supporters claim Watson was never busted and he is a true hippie at heart whose life was transformed by LSD, and not the ruthless capitalist he really is.
The pro-Cogo camp is very small and peppered only by kooks from intel’s Tin Foil Hat Patrol, as anyone can easily find Cogo’s testimony to the grand jury, but they create just as much noise and confusion as the pro-Watson camp. The first person to expose Watson’s bust in print in America and accuse him of being a government agent was Joe Pietry, who also claims I am a government agent. (File under: get your influencer out in front and run off a cliff.) There never was any evidence Nevil nor I were intel influencers. In fact, I’ve devoted much of my life to exposing real ones inside the counterculture, most notably Kennedy, the lawyer who ran the Weather Underground, stole High Times, threw out the mag’s investigative journalism, and ran that once-esteemed publication into the ground while sucking out all the profit.